UN names 2019 as international year of Indigenous languages

"Despite their immense value, languages around the world continue to disappear at an alarming rate"

The UN’s international year for 2019 is intended to highlight the need to preserve, revitalize and promote the use of the world’s estimated 7,000 Indigenous languages—2,680 of which are considered to be in danger. Here, a young Nunavut student learns the days of the week in Inuinnaqtun. (PHOTO COURTESY OF GN)

By Sarah Rogers

The United Nations has named 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

The UN typically chooses a different topic each year to raise awareness about issues that have an international impact.

In this case, the UN’s intention is to highlight the need to preserve, revitalize and promote the use of the world’s estimated 7,000 Indigenous languages—2,680 of which are considered to be in danger.

“Languages play a crucial role in the daily lives of people, not only as a tool for communication, education, social integration and development, but also as a repository for each person’s unique identity, cultural history, traditions and memory,” the UN said in a news release.

“But despite their immense value, languages around the world continue to disappear at an alarming rate.”

There are 50 Indigenous languages in the circumpolar world alone.

Inuktut—the broad term for the different dialects spoken across Canada’s four Inuit regions—varies in its usage from one region to the next.

The use of Inuktut is stronger in northern Quebec’s Nunavik region, where 99 per cent of Inuit say they can speak the language, according to Statistics Canada’s most recent census, bull falls to as low as 21 per cent in Newfoundland and Labrador’s Nunatsiavut region.

In Nunavut, 89 per cent of Inuit said they could carry on a conversation in Inuktitut.

But a 2017 report that looked at language use in Nunavut found that the use of Inuktut at home is falling at a rate of about 12 per cent per decade. At the same time, the proportion of Nunavut Inuit who use mostly English at home rose to 46 per cent in 2011 from 28.5 per cent in 1991.

The UN’s international focus on Indigenous languages, in collaboration with UNESCO, aims to shine a light on the critical risks facing many Indigenous languages and promote a global dialogue towards reconciliation.

You can visit the UN’s website here.

The United Nations did not declare any specific topic as a focus in 2018.

In 2017, the UN acknowledged the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development; 2016 was the International Year of Pulses.

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(3) Comments:

  1. Posted by Colin on

    The way families and the school system are operating in reality in Nunavut is that many young people don’t learn either English or Inuktitut proficiently. Numerous times, for example, I’ve asked an Inuk for the word for a plumber and been unable to get an answer. Then I’ve asked for the English meaning of sululerriyee and been unable to get any reverse translation. The best way to learn one or more language is from another one but you have to learn at least one language proficiently to start. English is an always will be the language of well-paid jobs in the modern world.

    • Posted by Inuktituuqta! on

      Unnusakkut Colin, ikajurasuktagit (ikajuq+rasuk+tagit = help + try + me to you),

      Plumber = Sulluliriji
      Sulirivit? = What are you working on/What are you doing?

  2. Posted by Inuktituulauqta! on

    Inuktitut uqalauqta! Kanngusuqattanngillusi Inuktitut uqariaksaq.

    Nunatsiarmi Pivalliajut: tamanna titiraqtausimajuq Inuktitulirungnaqpisiuk?
    Piunajaqtuq titirarungnarupsi taapsuminga titiraqtausimajumik Inuktitut aturlusi. Qujannamiik.

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